Bingo: Pure Chance or Game of Skill?

There is a scale. It consists of ‘skill’ at one end, ‘chance’ at the other, and a vast chasm of space in between.

Games are scattered along the spectrum. The further towards the end of the former, the greater the opportunity to become a good player; the further towards that of the latter, the less point there is concerning yourself about strategy.

Chess, for instance, requires a great deal of skill (or your opponent’s lack of it), and, if played well, leaves little to chance. Backgammon, on the other hand, requires less tactical analysis; simple tactics, combined with great dice rolling (the results of which are definitely left to chance, however spectacular your technique) can easily outmanoeuvre an opponent. There’s no doubt, though, that there is still some prospect of developing proficiency; it is middling in its spectrum position.

So, where exactly does bingo fall on the skill to chance scale?

It is easy to identify bingo as a game purely consisting of chance. After all, the bingo cage emits numbered balls at random, whether in the tangible reality of a bingo hall, in the virtual form of online games, or somewhere in between, with our play-at-home bingo caller.

Neither is there the capacity to choose the numbers that appear on your tickets. And since it is these factors, in combination, that determine a winner or ‘everyone else’, there is surely no more to say on the matter.

Indeed, it can even be argued that its reliance on ‘luck’ is part of bingo’s mass appeal: with no requirement for specialised knowledge, amateurs can hold their own against seasoned players. Likewise, it increases in recreational value; we, as a society, tend to find things most relaxing when it doesn’t involve anything too taxing. No strategy or tactics, for instance.

But, with the added dimension —pressure even— generated by the input of real money, its positioning becomes a question of greater significance.

Is the loss or gain of any of the capital, so readily poured into bingo, purely determined by chance? And if there’s no greater chance of winning than not, why do we continue to play?

The answer, it seems, lies not in the art of playing, but in the act of participation.

For while it may be true that the game, in itself, does not amount to more than pure chance, how you approach it, can demonstrate either commendable competence, or grave underestimation.

In the same way, being good at poker does not solely rely on the cards you have been dealt, but the ability to maintain a good ‘poker face’ and spot telltale traits in those of others.

Both of these aspects are partially reliant on the decisions made within the game; when, for example, you or your opponents place a bet —and how much for. Such actions that can be critical to gaining success, or despairing in failure, as much as, if not more than, the cards in your hand.

Applying this principle to bingo, it is clear that some aspects of this analogy become irrelevant. To begin with, we’ve already discussed that the crucial decisions are entirely dependent on chance; mind-games become inapplicable.

However, in deciding your investment: when, and how much, there is a thought process that relies on some form of logic (good or bad; conscious or involuntary).

And where logic is involved, it follows that players can, to some extent at least, be trained, honed, improved.

And sure, for those players who cite reasons other than ‘generating profit’ for their love of the game (and research does indeed suggest that the social aspect of bingo is a more prominent driving force) this whole debate may appear irrelevant.

But, regardless of motivation, any player who is depositing real money within the context of bingo should be aware of the risk they are taking; and anyway, whoever heard of people being ‘in it to lose it’?

So, let’s see just to what extent it might be possible to become ‘better’ at bingo.

For bingo is a game of maths. And for those of you who just switched off, it’s not quite what you think. Because, the longer you’ve been playing, the more likely you are to have already started developing your skills —intuitively.

For instance, there’s little chance (pun intended) that you don’t, at least subconsciously, determine your spending based upon your income, or capacity to afford the tickets.

This is, naturally, an illustration of the very basics of planning: it won’t increase your prospect of winning.

However, it does ensure that you keep any losses to a predetermined amount: one that you have calculated to be acceptable and affordable, according to your situation. A strong start.

Then there’s the fact that, by taking advantage of deals and offers (such as those we tell you about in our reviews), you can increase your chances of winning, with reduced outlay.

Of course, it gets more complicated than that: deals, by their very nature, attract more players. If a promotion is saturated, your odds are likely to be lengthened, unless there’s a proportionate increase in the amount of prizes available. Likewise with bingo rooms that offer huge jackpots.

This is the benefit of bingo promotions that are, in some way, restricted. For example, deals that are only available to New Players (Newbie Rooms, for example), or to another section of the player population.

Naturally, it can be noted that bingo companies often impose limits on rooms in order to prevent them becoming excessively overcrowded. There is also the possibility that they may also display the amount of players present, enabling you to estimate — at least in theory — your chances of winning.

Timing can play a factor in this; it should be possible to find an optimum time to play, where there is the crucial balance between the amount of players, and the amount that can be won.

And that’s the point. You will be able to estimate... in theory . It should be possible.

For the truth is, bingo is far closer to the skill level that we like to admit. The skills involved are too complex, the variants too many, for us to work out —or bother, in the context of a game that most of us play, simply, for fun.

And that’s all very well. But, irrespective of motivations, the game (or our approach to it) shouldn’t be undermined by this ignorance.

For while no amount of skill can definitely override the odds, it can certainly go some way to shortening them.

Have you ever tried to develop your bingo skills, or do you leave your game-playing to chance? Let us know in the comments below.

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